Kudos to all the working mummies out there!

It’s Mothers’ Day today. Depending on where you live, it’d be a different date. In any case, today we’re celebrating the American day for being nice to your mother once in a year.

I have great respect for working mums. I know many of you would rather be SAHMs (stay at home mums) but for whatever reason, you’re juggling both work and your kid/s.

The dream scenario, for me at least, is if I have a husband who’s rich enough to support me and the kids while I stay at home and nurture my offspring with creative experiences. Plus he should also be rich enough so that we have a maid or two to do all the household chores, including washing up after I prepare fun and nutritious Jamie Oliver-inspired meals in my Martha Stewart kitchen. This remains a pipe dream for me, and many others.

A few weeks ago, a mummy friend sent me the O&M video on Mums and Maids and asked my opinion from a journalistic perspective.

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My response: It’s not journalism. It’s an ad/campaign that seeks to provoke.

And provoke it did. As I watched it, I felt my hackles raising even though I’m not a mum. I felt offended on behalf of all the mummies that are trying to do the best they can.

1. Where are the men?

As I watched, I was thinking that they’d got a really good representation of mothers, in terms of age and ethnicity/nationality. When the video ended, I was like where are the men? So you spend two minutes showing how mothers make a fool of themselves because they don’t know what their child’s favourite subject is and you allow the men to walk away. Are fathers exempt from having to bond with their kids too? The feminist in me roared: I bet it was a man who signed off on the creative.

“We focused the creative strategy on tapping into modern parents’ fear of missing out. By showing how parents are losing out on their relationship with their children by always requiring their domestic worker to be around, we reposition their day off as an opportunity to enhance family bonding,” said Eugene Cheong, chief creative officer of Ogilvy & Mather Asia Pacific.

Well, I was right about it being a man to sign off on the creative.

Now, the last time I checked, the term parents includes mothers and fathers. Fine, some modern families may have two mothers or two fathers, but we’re splitting hairs. The fact is the glaring omission of fathers in this unfortunate video reflects how our society’s perspectives on gender roles and equality haven’t progressed much from the Ice Age. Women are still expected to stay home and keep house while men bring back the bacon. Except that nowadays women bring back the bacon (or leg of ham) AND keep house at the same time. A little encouragement would be good.

Shame on you O&M for a creative that vilifies working mums (as though they don’t feel guilty enough). Shame on you O&M for perpetuating gender inequality by expecting mums to know all about their children while dads get away scot-free.

But I know you won’t feel ashamed because by your standards, this ad was a freaking success, having gone viral and making you really in/famous. If Amos Yee is in trouble for “wounding the feelings” of Christians, I think you should too, for wounding the feelings of women and mummies.

2. What’s the messaging, bro?

According to the logic of this video, if I give my maid a day off, I’ll be able to spend more time with my kid so that I know if she has a boyfriend (even though she’s only four!) Hello, kids don’t tell parents stuff, especially stuff that they think they might get into trouble for.

Unless I was the only troubled teen when growing up, I sure didn’t voluntarily spill out all my deep dark secrets to my parents. Like how I didn’t tell them I went to see Little Mermaid in the cinema on my first-ever date when I was 14. Except that my mum’s friend saw me in the cinema AND spilled the beans. I’ve never forgiven that kaypoh for getting my budding romance nipped. Heck, I’m 38 now and I still practise “selective speaking” with my parents.

Again, I’m not sure how capitalizing on mummy guilt will get domestic helpers their day off.

3. Fake or real

The third thing that bugged me was did the mums know how their answers were going to be used? In short, did they know they were being set up to be sitting ducks? Or were they actually actresses following a script?

Transient Workers Count Too put out a statement on its FB page:

“O&M also told us that the families portrayed in the film had participated in the film because they wanted to do their part to advocate for domestic workers’ rights.”

Yeah right. For O&M’s sake, I hope they didn’t misrepresent the purpose/style of the video when getting these mummies to do this film. In fact, there was one mum who said briefly in the video that she assumed that her face was going to be blurred out.

Whatever this video tries to portray or to achieve, I just want to wish all mummies a Happy Mothers’ Day. And for all the working mummies out there, you’re just plain awesome!

Enslaved

I’m on my way to making the single most expensive purchase in my life – a HDB flat. And it’d be the one thing that I’d spend the rest of my life paying off. Come to think of it, it takes 18 years to raise a kid before booting him/her out of the house (if you’re angmoh). But it’s going to take me 25 years to eventually own the flat, by which time it might not be worth much, given that the flat is just three years younger than me. We’d actually grow old together, how sweet is that!

As a single, I can go on and on about how the government is not being fair to us in its housing policies and believe me, I have some pretty strong opinions on it. But I’ve come to the point where, ok, that’s the way things work in Singapore, it’s my fault for being single, so can’t blame no one else but me.

But there’s one grant which I really wished the government had opened up to singles – the housing grant for living near parents. Currently this is only available to married couples. To be honest, I’m only living in one of the most expensive districts in Singapore because my parents are there. And the reason I want to live near my parents is so that I can be close enough when they need me. And singles are increasingly taking up the bulk of caring for parents in their old age. So why shut them out of a grant that is meant to foster that inter-dependency?

I suppose the government could always retort that if I’m that serious about looking after my parents, then I should buy a resale flat and stay with them. They do give grants for that. Who cares about personal space?

In any case, grant or no grant, the HDB First Appointment is now over. Time to start thinking about renovation.

Here’s my floor plan for the fun of it!

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